REI’s community health initiative breaks new ground for us on several levels. This is our first official cooperative effort with CoRE, the Vietnamese NGO (Non-Government Organization, or non-profit organization) which was birthed by Michael Ong and his team at Tea Talk. (You can read more about Michael and Tea Talk in the “Social Work” section of our web news archives.) Our past programs and volunteers have been sponsored through PACCOM, the government agency which oversees cooperative work with international NGOs. But this time our volunteers received their oversight and visas through VUSTA, the government agency which oversees work with domestic, Vietnamese NGOs. This may not sound like much more than a different kind of alphabet soup, but in fact it means that REI has moved to a whole new level of integration with Vietnam. We are thrilled.
Another area of new ground for us is working in the area of community health (again, to be understood as developing healthy communities). Dr. Gary Hipp and his wife Merri Lee (above right), leaders of this program, have some 40 years of experience in this, largely in Africa as well as in Asia, Europe, and North America. The other team members were Dr. David Bjork, Blair Anderson, and Anna Snider (from left to right above). From October 15-18 Gary and his team presented their second 4-day seminar to 20 participants (the first seminar was given last June). One of the emphases was change: how do people change, that they may effect change in their community?
Ms. Luong, pictured above, CoRE staff and participant in the Community Health program, commented, “I learned a lot of things during the seminars. I had never learned about principles of adult learning and how that is different from teaching young people. Role-playing, small-group discussions, storytelling and video clips all made our seminar more interesting, and will help us to teach adults in the community. Having all the participants share their expectations and develop our seminar ground rules together gave us ownership of the seminar.
“We also learned about resource mapping, which focuses on what we have rather than what we lack. We developed appreciation questions for different areas of community life, and then went out into the neighborhood on a field trip to practice asking these questions to members of the community. This will help us prepare for doing the real thing in the next few months!”
20 young Vietnamese (with a middle-aged participant or two) attended the first two 4-day seminars. From this pool of talent, CoRE staff and Gary’s team will select from 4 to 6 people to receive further in-depth training and mentoring over the next year. At that point one or more communities in the outskirts of Hanoi will be selected for a pilot program and community leaders approached to launch this initiative in developing their community according to their own perceived needs and resources. Over the next 2-4 years, if all goes according to plan, we will help these communities with their self-directed development, and expand our program to other communities.
We are extremely appreciative of the efforts of the CoRE staff to make this recent part of program such a resounding success. As Gary later said, “Luong did a remarkable job of coordinating communications with our team, setting up the field visit and keeping everything running well. CoRE has chosen her well to be part of their team. Trang gave us ongoing understanding of Tea Talk and CoRE and we appreciate all the leadership she gives to CoRE. With Trang, Huong, Luong and Michael we believe we have an excellent partnership. It was also a pleasure to have Presley McFadden involved in the workshop even as he is now more involved in Tea Talk and CoRE.”
We are well launched on the way to furthering the empowerment of communities, and anticipate greater things to come as we employ Community Based Health Care to build the people, the communities, and the nation of Vietnam!